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Moments – The Fire Ritual In Tomb Raider (2013)

Anyone who’s played a Tomb Raider game knows that Lara Croft is a woman of extraordinary perseverance. Whether she’s scaling obstacles, executing physical feats, or combating deadly creatures, Lara persists. This strength of character is put to the test like never before in the 2013 series reboot. The mission pushes Lara to the absolute limit of what she can endure not just physically, but also emotionally as the heroine goes above and beyond to save a friend.

For those who haven’t played the game, be warned: the following article contains spoilers.

Lara is making her way through a cave, shortly after surviving a harrowing scramble across the bridge of Yamatai’s imperial palace, when she stumbles upon Mathias and his cult about to burn Sam at the stake in a demented ritual. Lara tries to save her friend, but is quickly overpowered. She can only watch – helpless – as Mathias lights the pyre at Sam’s feet. 

This is the only time I’ve ever known Lara Croft to give up hope, and who could blame her? A number of instances in the game really highlight Lara’s humanity as she struggles to survive, but I don’t think she truly reaches rock-bottom until she fails to save Sam from the fire ritual. Disarmed and restrained, speech is the only agency Lara has left. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” she gasps. Her need to apologize is so pathetically human, and it feels like a testament to her failure. 

There is no such thing as a selfless apology. In acknowledging our wrongs aloud, we also seek to assuage our own guilt – which is why it’s so awe-inspiring when Lara stops apologizing, and resumes doing whatever she can to help Sam. I was touched by Lara’s attempt to distract Sam from her impending immolation: “Just look at me…look at me, okay?” My thoughts turned to my best friend. What would I do if she were in Sam’s position? I hope I could be even half as courageous as Lara. 

The massive gale that suddenly extinguishes the pyre is both Sam’s salvation and her damnation, as its intervention convinces Mathias that she is the chosen vessel of the Sun Queen. The wind is also a bitter reminder of Lara’s failed rescue. As long as Sam is still alive, however, Lara has a chance of saving her.

While Sam is taken to the palace’s throne room, Lara escapes from her guards by dropping over the side of a rocky catwalk. When the thugs look down, players are treated to a bird’s-eye-view of the horror Lara just jumped into: a veritable river of gore. The image of Lara surfacing from the mire, completely drenched in blood and goodness knows what else, is the most shocking sight in the game. I believe Lara is at her most desperate when she thinks her failure is going to end in her best friend’s death. Just as Lara rises from the blood in the depths of the earth, she can only go up after hitting rock bottom.

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